COSI Blog

Science in the News

05
July
2012

Swimming in the Higgs Ocean

Scientists at CERN have announced that it's quite likely they've finally cornered the primary quarry of their latest and biggest machine, the Large Hadron Collider. I'd like to call it the Higgs, but others will insist on calling it "The God Particle."

If you remember nothing else from this article, I'd like you to remember this: please don't call it The God Particle. According to Rutgers University physics professor Matt Strassler, who knows a lot more about this stuff than I do, the origin of the nickname is about as non-religious and non-scientific as one could imagine: it was invented as advertising... I have never heard or seen a physicist refer to the Higgs particle in this way in the context of a scientific paper, a talk at a conference, or even an informal scientific discussion. There’s nothing in the mathematical equations, in the interpretation of the physics, in any philosophy of which I am aware, or in any religious text or tradition with which I am familiar that connects the Higgs particle or the Higgs field with any notion of religion or divinity. The nickname is pure invention."

Swimming in the Higgs Ocean
01
June
2012

Venus Crossing!

In Roman mythology, Venus was the goddess of love. From Earth, the lovely planet Venus is the brightest object we can see besides the Sun and the Moon. We know today that Venus itself is not so lovely a place, with clouds of sulfuric acid and a surface hot enough to melt lead. But because Venus is between the Earth and the Sun, every so often, something very special happens. Venus passes directly between our planet and our star. We call this passage a transit.

Imagine yourself as a space alien, looking down on our solar system. In the center is the Sun, dwarfing all else. A few million miles* from the Sun you see some orbiting rocks. Two of them, almost the same size, are the second and third rocks from the Sun. The orbits of these planets are almost (but not quite) circles, and they’re almost (but not quite) in the same plane. If the planets were exactly in the same plane, it would be as if they were marbles rolling about on a flat plate as they circle the Sun. If that were the case, then every time Venus overtook the Earth in its orbit (something that happens at least once every year) people on Earth would see Venus pass in front of the Sun. But because our orbits are tilted, this perfect passage (or transit) occurs only when conditions are just right.

Venus Crossing!
25
May
2012

Incredible Commitment, Incredible Stories

Many companies and individual donors provide support for youth programs at science centers around the country. I have worked with many over my years at different museums and they all bring sincerity and hope at some level to their support.

But I have never had the experience of working with a company and individuals quite so dedicated, visionary, and personally engaged and committed as those around the Miracle-Gro Capital Scholars program. Today’s feature story in The Columbus Dispatch shares the special story of how the Hagedorn family and the Scotts Miracle-Gro company (where Jim Hagedorn is CEO) have made an incredible commitment to help youth make a fundamental change in their lives in partnership with COSI and others.

07
May
2012

Science and Truth

There’s one rather cynical way of looking at science that goes something like this: everything in science eventually turns out to be wrong.

You can understand where such thoughts originate. Once, the best scientists in the world told us that space and time were separate. Then along came Einstein to show how they were linked. Scientists once thought that continents had always existed right where they are today. Then Eugene Wegener showed that continents drift across the globe. Once we thought atoms were indivisible. Then along came a whole zoo of particles that stream out of atoms every time we hit them hard enough. Maybe, this line of thought goes, science just describes what we can see today. When we can see more (with better telescopes, better microscopes, and so on), science will tell us something totally different.

Science and Truth
26
April
2012

On Auto Pilot

Cars that Drive Themselves

People love their cars. But driving can be risky. When it comes to moving at 100 kilometers per hour, the laws of physics are not always on our side. Stopping a car, slowing it down, or changing its direction at high speed can be difficult and dangerous. But there is a solution to the problem of driving: remove the drivers.

On Auto Pilot
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